jag .

Student,

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What is the most effective way to increase the living standard of people in developing countries, in relation to engineering?

I'm a university student wanting to have an engineering career in developing countries. I'm not sure what part of engineering I want to specialise in, and would be grateful for any ideas, especially from people who are in this field themselves. If not, that's kl too.

Also the main problems that need to be solved to raise the living standard (social, physical, emotional, etc.)

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    May 28 2011: There are many venues to pursue! This is something that I have been passionate about, and I'm so happy that another person relayed that taking a practical approach (engineering) to solving international development problems is a valid route. In my experience I have identified two major routes towards combining the two: civil and industrial design. However, I am in mechanical engineering with a specialty in materials, and have managed just fine. Civil engineering because many of the projects that would improve social and economic living standards are in implementing infrastructure such as roads, water systems and purifications, sewage etc. It's not glamorous but they are the veins of a society that is developed. Industrial design is another route I think that is equally valid, as it addresses specific needs for populations. This is the direction that I have started to pursue, especially in building looking at social enterprises. I'm modeling a plan for my business after individuals like Paul Polak of IDE or Kickstart. They have created tools to economically help people improve their own living standards in a sustainable manner. There are other ways, but these two really stand out. Furthermore, I would suggest pursuing Chinese, French, and Spanish. A lot of investment is coming from China into development projects in developing countries and it has been very useful to me. French and Spanish are also main languages in many of these countries and are exceedingly beneficial. Hope that helps!
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      jag .

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      May 29 2011: Thanks for that, I never knew that China was investing heavily in developing countries. Its helpful what you say about the 2 different career paths, fortunately I am currently studying Civil Engineering at uni, and your right, they are many projects I can be involved in. Thats one of the things I am currently contemplating about; what part of civil engineering I want to specialise in.

      Thanks again :)
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    May 28 2011: do you a have a passion for helping people or creating new design to simplify and upgrade the way of living.

    im in a shipbuilding industry, with the right exposure and experience anything is possible. I once conceptualize a floating city. A dome like floating city were it can move to avoid incoming typhoons. i think in the near future it would be possible and i hope that kind of development would not lead us in a dead end. well we can always jump into designing a floating city, right? or this and that etc. hehe peace!
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      jag .

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      May 28 2011: Nice idea with the floating city.

      I'm more about helping people, and creating new designs to improve living standards is helping people, so in some situations it will be the same thing.
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    May 27 2011: If you are interested in international development, be sure to check out Paul Colliers[1] TED talks. Not that they help you to find the answer to this particular question, but because he is very enlightening to listening to for a larger perspective.

    [1] http://www.ted.com/speakers/paul_collier.html
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      jag .

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      May 28 2011: Wow thats really interesting, it will definitely help. Thanks alot :)
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        May 28 2011: Also, have you heard about engineers without borders[1]?
        They have student organizations at several universities where people gather and speak about such issues, and some even carry out their own projects. If such an organization exists at your university, meybe you can find more likeminded people there.

        [1] http://www.ewb-international.org/
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          jag .

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          May 28 2011: Yh thanks, I'm part of my uni group. :)
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    Jul 7 2011: .
    I think the answer is a bit obvious, if you consider that 75% of the world's poor and 70% of the world's malnourished people are actually farmers and villagers.

    -so your answer would be the development of low cost "universal tools" for the rural masses and for farmers. Small tools, such as light tractors, affordable trucks, low-cost irrigation equipment, dehulling machines, dryers, durable and efficient warehouses and storage facilities for agricultural products, brick making machines, drills for wells, etc... Everything that concerns rural populations, of which there are 3 billion.

    -if you want something very concrete, here's an idea: develop a small, low-cost machine that makes nitrogen fertilizer out of air and that can be used on a village level, by unskilled people (there are some patents and ideas to do this, but nobody has gotten the engineering right, nor the courage to build such a machine). If you succeed, you would probably help 2.5 billion farmers who need fertilizer but cannot afford it. And you would find investors in the blink of an eye. (Contact me for this idea, I'm active in this sector).

    -what Rebecca said is also very important: basic infrastructures for the rural masses: tertiary agricultural roads, canals, railways, energy networks, etc...

    -a last bit of advice: perhaps you should book a trip to a really poor country, like the D.R.Congo, and check some things out, both in the cities and in the country-side. This will broaden your views and it may go far in guiding your choice.
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      jag .

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      Jul 11 2011: Thanks for the comment, and sorry for the delay.

      I have just recently come back from the WEDC conference at Loughborough University Its definitely swayed me more towards water and sanitation. I met alot of really nice people and learnt alot about some of the problems and how researchers/organisations are going about solving them.

      -The part you say about rural masses is interesting, and building infrastructure and tools.

      I went to a presentation where they were using urine (which contains nitrogen) as a fertiliser for maize and banana trees.

      Next year I am planning to go to an African country, specifically so I know what it is like to be there.

      Thanks for the answer Laurens, it has opened my mind more to other aspects of what can be done.

      I'm also going to a redr workshop to learn about the structure of the aid/relief work sector, so it feels like there is information coming from eveywhere lol.
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        Jul 11 2011: Jag . ,
        It seems like you're getting well informed. This is very good. Too often people enter the development sector without thinking things through before and after their actions.

        It's a good idea to specialize in a sector (e.g. water and sanitation), just to get you a first job. But as an engineer it would be great if your were to remain open to all problems you see.

        In development work you have to be a like a sponge: suck up everything you see, and act there where you think it's most necessary.

        Best of luck. You're on an exciting career path.
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          jag .

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          Jul 13 2011: Thanks for your kind words. I suppose having an all round understanding of the main elements of development work will come with experience and studying.

          And I will try to be a sponge :P